Row over delayed council meetings

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IOL S’bu Sithole

INLSA

eThekwini municipal manager Sbu Sithole.

Durban - Several important council meetings had been cancelled or postponed “on a whim” while other pressing matters affecting Durban ratepayers had also been shelved without reasonable explanation, opposition parties in the eThekwini council said on Tuesday.

The result was that officials were unable to implement pro-jects quickly without the council’s approval.

On Monday, city spokesman Thabo Mofokeng e-mailed a notice that the executive committee (exco) meeting scheduled for Tuesday had been postponed to Thursday.

“Apologies for any inconvenience,” he said.

Mofokeng said mayor James Nxumalo, deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala and other committee members were either attending the national conference of the SA Local Government Association in Gauteng or a KZN cabinet conference.

He said Shabalala had previously chaired executive committee meetings in the absence of Nxumalo, but they had both been unavailable to chair Tuesday’s meeting.

But senior officials, who spoke to The Mercury on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media, said any postponement or cancellation of meetings caused serious service delays.

Another official said he had had to halt important projects because without council authorisation he was unable to do his job.

“It is especially problematic if a committee meeting is postponed because some committees meet once a month. That means you can go a whole month without a decision, thus causing delays,” he said.

DA caucus leader Tex Collins said his party was concerned that far too many important meetings were either cancelled or postponed because the ANC had to deal with party issues.

He said the constant cancellation of meetings was having a negative impact on services because vital decisions affecting the functioning of the municipality were not being made timeously.

“[ANC councillor] Nigel Gumede unilaterally postponed Tuesday’s exco meeting simply because he had to attend a Salga conference,” he said.

Collins added that the DA would report the matter to the department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

NFP councillor Bongiwe Mtshali said the party was concerned about the meetings being potsponed because services were being hampered as a result.

“The constant postponement of meetings shows that the ANC is not serious about governing this municipality… they are not serious about service,” she said.

Nxumalo said the statement by Collins was just an attempt to score cheap political points and was devoid of any truth.

“The decision to postpone the exco meeting was taken by myself in my capacity as chairperson of the committee due to urgent engagements with the city manager.”

He added that they were both attending the provincial cabinet conference organised by KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize.

“The argument that the postponement of the meeting by two days would affect service delivery was not logical and could only be seen in the context of political point scoring,” said Nxumalo.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs spokesman Lennox Mabaso said his department could not comment yet because it had not received any complaint. - The Mercury


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